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    • "It sort of gives me the willies, trying to just figure out what the man has in mind, whatever it is, if there is just him running this plan, what's in it for him?" Was Speed's question.   "I kin see him doin' this just ta aggre-vate us." McNue tossed in. "Not jest us but them ranchers as well. An' with them meetin' to form up some plan he might jest be gettin' whot he's after."   "Confusion." Cook said. "Nobody knowin' what's next, or who's next, or why."   I believe you've a point there Cook. Everybody involved is off balance with just the one raid, which makes no sense to anyone but Case Steelgrave." Speed declared. "Not to make him a genius, no. There's a method to this madness, a method that will come out soon enough."   "They ain't never as smart as they think they are." McNue added.
    • "Well thank you Walter." He looked to Bradley Fairchild. "Interesting. Shall we put pour bags in the room and perhaps catch a bite and a drink or two? I have no idea what this could be but we'll know soon enough."   "Yes, let's, I could use a drink after that ride out here, maybe a couple, and something to eat, that sounds about right to me." The two men headed to their respective rooms to drop off their bags, then each headed toward the dining room, Tyndall clutching the mysterious envelope.   Each placed his order for an early dinner, and ordered drinks at the same time, those would be served right off so, without further ado, Carson Tydall opened the envelope and removed it's contents. A number of papers, on top a note of explanation. 'Mister Tyndall, Enclosed you will find a copy of a contract between the town of Kalispell and Leah Steelgrave. We believe that due to that absence of the signatures of myself, and Judge Benjamin Robertson there was no legal quorum, and therefor this contract is not valid. C. Latham'   There was the contract, a list of the council members and a copy of the minutes of the meeting where the contract was approved and a bank draft for five hundred dollars.   "Latham, he can be such a pain in the rump!" Tyndall stated.  
    • Rating: PG-14 Content: N/A With: Tully, Clara, maybe more? Location: Lickskillet Cafe When: September/ 1876 Time of Day: Night Tully had a good deal of patience, and could sit very still for hours, it was a skill she had learned at a young age, to stay hidden and unobserved.  Tonight, as she had a few times before, she was crouched at the end of the alley near the cafe, waiting for the last of the customers to leave.  After that, there was a short time when the young woman running the place would leave the kitchen to clean the dining area, and that was when Tully could sneak in the back and grab something...anything, she didn't care, so long as it was edible.   Finally, that last group left, and Tully quietly moved closer to the back door, waiting, listening, and when the lady left the kitchen, she slipped in the back door, grabbing a biscuit and stuffing it in her mouth, then reaching for more that disappeared into pockets.  There was some stew on the stove, but that would have to be put into something easier to carry than the large, hot kettle.   In her haste to pour the stew into a ceramic pitcher, Tully didn't consider that the kettle would still be as hot as it was, and as she picked it up, she let out a yelp, dropping the kettle as well as the pitcher.    Panicked, she looked toward the dining area as she scrambled for the back door, only managing to slip on the stew, tangle in a chair and fall to the floor...   @Wayfarer
    • "Well next time you're 'helpin' a friend', move the bed away from the wall: I had to darn near stuff cotton wool in my ears when I was sleeping next door!"   "You are being overly dramatic....as usual.....that was ONE time and one time only. It just happened, we are not in any sort of a romance," Caroline was annoyed at the very idea of that.   That's when Arabella informed her that Brendan had picked up a job.......at the town butcher shop recently opened by that Jewish man from the East. Very welcome news, that!   "Say, I'm just running to the stores now, look, I got my little basket with me - why don't you come with me and we can call in on him and say Howdy and have a good look at his meat."    Caroline made a face, "I do not cook, you know who does at the saloon by now. She also does the shopping for groceries. I have never been in a butcher shop in my life."   She had other plans in mind, she wanted to head over to the Wigfalls and see Lt. Greene.   Suddenly she had an idea, "But I'll make you a deal. I will accompany you there but in return you must promise me that you will not show up while Lt. Greene and I are dining. Like last time."
    • A perplexed look appeared on Walter's face. Even though he had been looking at the envelope, he hadn't bothered checking out who it was addressed to.  It had been in the slot where mail was dropped off for guests who hadn't checked in yet.  The hotel was busy at this time of year, that the mail slots were only for use for guests who were currently staying at the hotel.  The former occupants of the rooms where Mr. Tyndall and his friend were staying, had left only a few hours ago.  Thankfully, Mr. Wentworth had a hired maids who did their jobs well enough to have the room ready in time.   Reading the name on the envelope, he saw that it was indeed address to Tyndall.  Smiling sheepishly, he handed over to the man.   He hefted the envelope wondering what was inside, but there was time to look at it when he was in his room. "Who dropped this off for me? Mister Latham perhaps?"   "Sorry, Mr. Tyndall I have no idea.  It was probably dropped off some time during the night.  You could ask the night clerk when he comes on duty at 8 o'clock."   @Flip

Plan Of Action


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Rating: PG-14
Content: N/A

Mature Content: Language.

With: Elias, Granger, Deckerd, Treach, Watts, & Dutch
Location: Main House, On The Range, On Lost Lake
When: July1876
Time of Day: Late Afternoon

 

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Attorney of sorts, Cole Latham, and Postmaster, newly minted, Nolan Ashworth rode out of town at a leisurely pace so as to not arouse suspicion that most already had about the pair. They were riding north, that would mean The Evergreen, and reporting to Elias Steelgrave. Generally only one would have the task of informing Elias of either his daughter, Leah's or son Case's doings that both went, that was something that did get attention. Including that of editor Phineas McVay who happened to be leaned against and awning post.  He stepped back into his office and smiled at printers devil, Tommy Lane.

 

"Round up our news rats and find out what's going on, just saw Latham and Ashworth headed for the Evergreen." He ordered. The news rats were hi informants that kept an eye on things around town.

 

The ride north was about the goings on since the last report and that which had happened that afternoon. It began with Guyer and Leah, then to Guyer and Wentworth, of the hotel, and culminated with a visit to Judge Robertson. None of those visits were in secret, nor was there any attempt to hide these meetings, and, that would mean the promised land for the hospital which was delayed.

 

Elias, ever volatile , would not be happy. He had been assured the judges silence as well as his delay in granting any parcel of land. So whatever the unknown outcome of these meetings, Elias would not be happy, both with the meetings and with the lack of knowledge as to what went on with Judge Robertson.

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Edited by Flip
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Neither Latham nor Ashworth were in a any particular hurry to reach the Evergreen ranch house which sat better then a mile in off the road still called Whitefish Trail, even though it had been destroyed nearly eight months earlier.

 

"You think Guyer will make trouble?" Ashworth asked. "I mean I know he and Leah are friends, and he had been one of her staunch supporters in this deal."

 

"He has, that's for sure, but as far as actually making trouble, I doubt it, but then again Nolan, it could depend what kind of trouble you're talking about. Seems he may have already started down that road."

 

"And Wentworth, I heard the rumor he's considering a run for Mayor. What would that look like?" Ashworth wondered aloud. "He doesn't seem the type to be controlled, not that Scott Cory was one to be controlled, but then Scott Cory was more of a 'figurehead' for the Town Council, but Cory and his daughter had not been seen in some months, though Ashworth had delivered a letter from Scott Cory to Wentworth just two days ago. No stamp, no postmark.

 

"Controlled? No, no he doesn't and I think we need to get a candidate to go against him." Latham observed. "The last thing we need is someone that will actually take charge of things, and damn that Richard Orr, we could have used him. The man had less scruples than even Elias Steelgrave, for Gods sake."

 

"I guess we'll see what Elias has to say about that. I'm just not looking forward to it." Ashworth said as they turned onto the Evergreen trail, as it was called.

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They arrived unchallenged at the main house, one that had bustled with activity not so long ago. Three boys, Ben, Case, Clay and Zeke, daughter Leah and wife Elinore. A family scattered to the winds. All that remained was Leah, the impetuous, disrespectful daughter that had escaped his grip, as had Elinor, and the boys. Grown men with families of their own, lives of their own, free of the iron hand of Elias Steelgrave.

 

He was a man alone. There were his hands, his foreman, men like Latham and Ashworth who were willing to do his bidding, legally, or otherwise. And, there were others, unknown to the likes of  the pair that currently stood at the front door. men scattered over the country that were busy doing Elias'  bidding.

 

Elias answered the door and ushered them in with a brief greeting, offering them a drink, though he himself had sworn off, again. "So, what brings you out today, aside from the usual. Leah at it again?"

 

Latham cleared his throat, "It's more about Marshal Guyer, and Matt Wentworth. To start at the beginning, Guyer went to see Leah, which to a point was unusual, there's some rumor about Case returning to the area. Then he went directly to the hotel. He and Wentworth left there and went straight to the Municipal Building, meaning, Judge Robinson, or that's my guess."

 

"No idea what they discussed?" Elias asked. "Although, it has to be about the damned hospital land."

 

"Elias, she has had an offer to build in Columbia Falls." Ashworth added.

 

"Columbia Falls, eh? Well that does me no good." He growled. "As far as Robinson, well,he has a lot to lose by saying anything to anybody. Did he sent the draft agreement to Helena as he was instructed?"

 

"He did Elias, I saw to it personally, it could be delayed there for months." Ashworth assured him.

 

"Perhaps, but there is the chance it will be seen by the wrong people and that could send an investigation, not that there was anything amiss with the draft, but one never knows." Elias was not all together sure of the plan, even though it had been his idea.

 

"And what of my son Case? There's nothing for him here."

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"I won't argue that, Elias, not at all. Case has no town anymore, he's certainly not welcome in Kalispell, but the fact remains, he is said to be on his way here. It is country he knows." Latham stated. "Now I do know that he and Guyer are on very bad terms after the way he was treated. There is that, to consider. How important killing Guyer is to him I couldn't say."

 

"Seems a flimsy reason to come back. You know he is fast with that gun of his, but from what I hear, Guyers no slouch in that department. My thought is this, if Case has gone completely bad, then this country is rich for cattle to rustle, banks to hit, mining payroll to be taken. Hell, Elias, your cattle. If he's bad, well, I doubt your ownership or your brand would make a difference to him."

 

"You've a point, Cole, it wouldn't make any difference at all." Elias agreed. "Best have the men on alert. Imagine that, son stealing from his father." Elias laughed, there was little humor in it. "If that's the case, then Case will have more on his hands that Speed Guyer to be concerned with, I don't care how many men he has with him."

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"Honestly, if Case is in fact on his way here, stealing your cattle might not be high on his list. Not that Guyer would be at the top of it, but you have to consider he's been gone a while and he'll need to get the lay of the lands, so to speak. Figure out what it is he's after." Latham replied.

 

"Yes, yes you're right, but I do like the thought he would have the sand to go against me. Which brings to mind a question or two you boys might be able to answer for me. Any word on Shade Thornton? Been quite a while now." Elias probed.

 

"Nothing. Like he simply up and vanished." Ashworth responded. "No mail from anywhere, same with that attorney woman, Harriet Mercer and come to think of it, Hanah Cory too. Folks just seemed to have up and disappeared." The truth was that there had been nothing over the wires or through the mail for any of them. "Can't say as I've seen Quentin Cantrell around either, but that's not out of the ordinary. Why do you ask?"

 

"Considering some options that might be presenting themselves. Something to consider, you know something for the future." Elias said smoothly, as if, whatever he was thinking was already in the planning stages, and that had to do with Lost Lake Ranch."

 

It fell quiet for a long moment.

 

"Lean on Robertson if need be, remind him that there are consequences. Keep your ears to the ground about Case, and anything to do with the Thornton's or Cantrell." Elias ordered. "Now get back to town and make sure that Leah's plans are derailed!"

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Latham and Ashworth got to their feet, Latham speaking first, "I'll see to the Judge personally. As far as Cantrell,"

 

"I've seen nothing from or about him or the Thorntons, other than that woman cousin in town, whatever she is. Got herself on with the paper, so I'm thinking we'll have her nosing around, but likely just women's stuff." Ashworth chimed in.

 

"Oh, yes, I forgot about the widow Sarah Thornton-Carlton, perhaps you're right about her covering the ladies news, but perhaps she has loftier ambitions." He said smoothly adding, "she can be eliminated. No go. I have things to do."

 

Without another word, and their orders clear, both men exited the house, mounted their horse and galloped out of the yard until the were almost to the main trail back to town.

 

"I haven't seen him like this in some time." Ashworth said. "what do you think he's planning?"

 

"It's not good whatever it is. And derailing Leah's plans may well be easier said than  done." Latham offered. "There's more to what he has in mind that that. His mention of the Thorntons, hell, nobody has seen Shade since before Christmas last."

 

"You think he plans to go after Lost Lake?" Was Ashworth's question.

 

"Could be, Nolan, could be. He's riled up about something, that's for sure." Latham said.

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With Shade and whatever family that had been on the Lost Lake gone, that made it a prime target for increasing his herd, and perhaps his holdings. There were a couple of facts that stood out, he had the men to make it happen, and if the rumors of his son Case's return were true, Case's men would be a welcome addition to this plan. Yet Elias was shrewd enough to know that open warfare with Lost Lake would create more problems than it would solve.

 

Increasing heard and holdings was always tempting to just ride roughshod over whomever stood in his way. But his daughter had brought Governor Houser into the mix, and with him a pair of Marshals to bolster Town Marshal and acting County Sheriff Guyer along with his Deputes Pike and Wentworth. And what was yet another fly in the ointment, there were the three turncoats, Bannister, Santee, and McKenny. So one needed to be a bit more cautious than he would like in doing things that needed doing to enhance his holdings of cattle and land.

 

Case would bring with him, experienced rustlers, and perhaps the best brand artist in this part of the country. That would be of immense help! Of course, he would need to get Case on his side, to see things his way, which had never been easy. And, once Cantrell was out of the way, provided he was still there, they could take the ranch with little problems. Oh, men would die, that was a given, in a situation such as that, but men could be replaced easily enough.

 

He exhaled with a smile. Yes, plans that needed more work, a son he needed to reunite with and recruit to his side, instead of having separate agendas. Combined, they would be a force to be reckoned with! Which brought to mind sons Ben, Clay and Zeke, perhaps.

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He stood at the window and watched them ride away. Two men that he could trust to do his bidding, two crooks out for the payday that Elias could make, and perhaps afford them the ability to move up in the community. There was the mayoral election, ways to weasel into the Town Council where Postmaster Ashworth already was ensconced, replacing the late Richard Orr, and not much better, though perhaps not with Orr's grandiose designs.

 

The idea of taking Lost Lake was becoming more appealing by the moment. So far as he knew, with Shade gone God knows where,  the next in line would be co-owners Cody and Nettie Thornton, and, Quentin Cantrell. The Thorntons were in California, a long way from Montana and what Elias Steelgrave could do in his own behalf. Now Quentin Cantrell could pose a problem, he was a tough customer alright, but there were ways to dispense with a man like Cantrell. It had already been done many times in Elias' storied past.

 

Of course, raiding the Lost Lake herds, that would be easy enough to accomplish, with or without crossing Aurelian Redmonds patch of dirt. Of course if he was to take lost lake, Redmond would stand little chance against his riders, but he could wait, there were much bigger fish to fry.

 

Where was Cantrell, that was the question?

 

Then too, there was Guyer to consider, he knew that Pike, his gun hand Deputy was off in California somewhere, and Wentworth, they could be dealt with, so could the turncoats.

 

Things were coming together quite nicely. Elias smiled.

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Elias had big plans, but what he realized was, he could not afford to start a range war with Lost Lake, not that he any doubts about who would come out on top n such a skirmish. And he caught himself thinking the word 'skirmish,' range wars were seldom a skirmish. There were out and out gun battles between the sides, so it was imperative that he begin to think of a better way to get what he was after. He could not kill Shade Thompson, simply because he was no there. That Shade had killed his son Cal, the revenge would be to take his property and destroy his legacy! That was a far better revenge.

 

Killing Guyer or Pike or even Wentworth for the sake of killing them would only drag the Territorial Government into the fray, and they would have the Army at their disposal, so perhaps dialing back his ambitions and attacking the problem from a different position would be the best way to deal with it. And should Case be disposed to help out, perhaps do the raiding and rustling as well as disposing the cattle, then that would make everything a bit easier.

 

Elias Steelgrave was not stupid, nor impetuous.

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Elias got up from his chair and went to the door where a man was posted. "Get me Granger." He ordered to a prompt 'Yes Sir!' Elias stepped back inside.

 

The memory of the men that had tried and failed to rustle his cattle flooded back to him. It had been enjoyable to get out and take part in bringing them down. To watching one swing for his trouble. That was what happened to rustlers that were caught alive. And it would happen at the nearest tree. So planning a raid on Lost Lake cattle had to be precise.

 

Men were easy to get, but good men were harder to come by on his side of the law. Men  handy with rope or gun were sometimes in short supply, not so on the Evergreen. Those were the hands that made up the majority of those on the payroll.

 

"You sent for me, boss?" Granger asked as he walked into the room, hat in hand.

 

"Yes, have a seat. I'm looking at thinning the Lost Lake herd some, but I want it done with the least risk to our men." Elias began, "I'd as soon not have anyone killed, if at all possible. And yes, I understand what I'm asking. I know the risks that are involved. What I'm proposing is that we select, if you will, men to scout Lost Lake and where they are holding their cattle."

 

Granger nodded, "That'd make it some easier, Boss. We got some that would fit the bill."

 

"Good. I have a notion that not all the herds are manned by more than one or two men. It makes sense for the high meadows to be held by a couple men at most. I want to act before they bring them down closer to the ranch itself. Of course that won't be until the weather starts to turn this fall, so there's time to put a plan into action."

 

"That can be done, I'll get on it right now!" Granger replied. Striking the Lost Lake made him smile.

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Granger left the house in a rush, heading to his horse, most all the men were on the range with the herds doing various jobs. Some were breaking horses in the main corral, calves and strays were being branded. Horses were being tended to by the smithy, replacing shoes, everything in preparation for the coming fall round up. Granted, that was a ways off, but on a spread as large as the Evergreen, it was never too early to tend to anything.

 

He rode out looking for Carson and a couple others, namely Rios and Connolly, they would have the assignment of searching out the herds of Lost Lake, the idea being seeing which would be the most vulnerable and hopefully the least to cause alarm and a fight. The only fence line they needed to worry about would be the one that separated the two ranches, both tended to maintain the wire that both sides hated.

 

He found Carson with the branding crew. "Carson, mount up, ride with me, we've business to discuss." That only took a moment for Carson to mount up and join the foreman. "Got a job for you, but first we need to find Connolly and Rios."

 

"Down with the south herd bringing 'em in." Carson informed him. "But Rios? He hightailed it outta here."

 

"The boss wants a look-see at the Lost Lake herds, tell ya more when we find the other one. But it's gonna be a big deal!"

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@Bailey
 

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Carson smiled. "Sure I can do that, boss. Ain't a lot to it, slip on over an' have me a looksee." Carson answered. "Reckon most of the herd's down close to the ranch 'er maybe over't Lost Trail, that's the best graze they got, 'cept along the mountains near the house, where the stream runs outta Lost Lake toward Kimi Lake. I'll check both."

 

"You watch yerself they don't shoot you on sight!" Granger ordered. "That last little go 'round didn't help matters much at all. You want maybe someone to ride with you?"

 

"Nah, I'll be fine. Scouted out a couple places where I can get through without bein' seen." Carson explained. "So I'll get my stuff an' head on out, liable to be a couple days at least, some rugged country over there."

 

"See ya when you get back." Granger said, turning his animal and starting of at a trot. Carson meanwhile, rode for the line shack he had been using to retrieve his gear, there would be need of cooking gear as this would take a couple days, maybe more. Lost Lake, had a lot of land, mountainous country with not a lot of gazing land, plenty enough, just not as much as the Evergreen had.

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Now a ride onto the Lost Lake was always a risk from the Evergreen, animosity ran deep between the two, but for Carson, all that was long before he signed on, and he knew very little about the past feuding, which had resulted in the killing of one of the Steelgrave sons. There had been skirmishes over the years, some recent, but not during his stay on the ranch.

 

He had gathered up his war bag and some minimal cooking equipment, planning to be on the Lost Lake for a couple of days, there was coffee, hard tack, salt pork, enough for several days. Best to be prepared. Ammunition, he had plenty in his belt. If he was seen, and if he was set upon, he would run if he could, or stand and fight if he had too. Running was the smart thing to do, and he was no coward, there was just no sense getting shot up, or worse, hung.

 

Carson mounted up and headed south-west toward the high country, it would be less likely he'd be seen that way, then, he would ride the crest, trying not to skyline himself too much as he looked over the herd near the Blackbird Lodge, as it was called. If it was there.

 

Then drop down and swing around to Kimi Lake and see if there was a herd there, and lastly, head east and back to the Evergreen. Sounded simple, but it might be far from that. He had his orders, and he was set to follow them.

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Granger returned to the house to let Elias know that Carson was on his way to scout out the Lost Lake spread. There was no sense sending men to steal cattle if they weren't sure where they were, and of course the number of wranglers with the herds.

 

Elias looked up from the latest issue of the Union as his foreman came in. "And,"

 

"Carsons on his way Boss, laid out what he'd do and how he'd go about it. Good man that Carson, he'll get it done." Granger explained. "Rios seems to have run off, shame, he was a decent hand, but again, no great loss, we've plenty of men."

 

"Well, not much to be done about one man, and you're right we have enough riders for whatever we need to do." Elias said as there came a knock on the door. "Get that will you?"

 

Granger walked to the door an quick strides, opening it to see Ashworth, who brushed past him without so much as a 'hello.' "Elias! There's a Town Council meeting in town this morning, I got here as fast as I could, Latham is there," He drew out his pocket watch, "It's already started. It concerns the hospital project. Robinson's left town." His words came in a rush. "Wentworth is conducting the meeting in his absence, so there's no telling what will happen, or what they'll do. I never thought he'd cut and run."

 

"Damn it!" Elias shouted at no one in particular. "Cut and run, I don't believe this, I mean all he had to do was continue with the delaying tactics like he had been, deny the meeting based on the contract being delayed in Helena. Good Christ!"

 

"Well Elias, the problem is, there may not be anything we can do. Wentworth is smart, getting this approved, maybe even getting Robinson off the Council, things could be slipping away!"

 

"Oh for Christsake Ashworth! Nothing is slipping away but Robinson's future in Kalispell in particular, and Montana in general. I will see him ruined for this! Mark my words, Ben Robinson won't be able to get a job selling newspapers!" and with that he threw the copy of the Union on the floor.

 

"So we'll need a plan?" Ashworth asked.

 

"I may already have one." Elias replied.

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The news was upsetting to Elias, the man liked everything to go his way, not that that was always possible, far from it, actually. But Ben Robertson, he believed he had the man firmly under his thumb, unfortunately, that did not seem to be the case, nor did he see this coming.

 

"I've got to get back, see if I can stop whatever it is they think they're going to do." Ashworth stated, fortunately he believed they would hold up the proceeding until he arrived, riding hard, that would be about an hour.

 

"You'll kill that horse." Elias exclaimed.

 

"Like hell! He's a mustang and built to run. I'll get there in good time, don't you worry." And he was out the door.

 

Elias laughed, "I'm not worried. Not about anything they might contrive without Robinson being present. A fools errand! That's what I call it. But Ashworth may be right, they will wait on his arrival, question is, will they know where he's been?" This was not going according to plan, but then there is always more than one plan.

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Carson didn't mind the assignment one bit. No sir, it allowed him to leave the work of the ranch behind and get out into the open country, although it was owned by Thornton, trouble was, no one had seen Shade Thornton in some time. Rumor had it, the man was east, or maybe south, depending on who you heard it from. Of course that was of little concern to a wrangler who was sent to scout out where the Lost Lake herds were, so that they could rustle them!

 

He made the transition from the Evergreen to the Lost Lake range easily enough, there were several spots where a man could get through almost unseen. Unless a man had a reason to be near any of those spots there would be no one to see the Evergreen rider cross over. It was going to take some time to cover the ground, most of which was either up or down the mountainous terrain. They had a whole lot of land, that was a fact, but not  lot of grazing land, and to a degree, the same could be said of the Evergreen. Except Steelgrave appeared to have more gazing pastures.

 

On this ride there would be no racing with the wind, a lot of walking instead. Thornton's cattle would be in a couple of places, likely as not, grass and water. So spotting them from up high would be easy enough, he didn't need to count them, which may or may not have presented a problem with them moving around. Little black dots below him. But he would be out here, free as the breeze in the trees, without much of a care in the world.

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With Ashworth racing back to town, Elias paused to give thought to what he would do about his daughter and this hospital business. With Robertson in place delaying the project could last indefinitely, or that was the plan at least. Oh, he had nothing against a hospital, not even the orphanage, but not with his rebellious daughter at the helm. It would be a mans place to undertake such an offering. Women just didn't seem to know their place in the world these days.

 

But with Robertson gone, that would test what his men in town could do about it. At the moment there was but a solitary vote that he controlled, and he did not like that. Anderson was a wimp when it came to his vote. Sanctimonious bastard! His wife seemed to wear the pants in that family. Before he had the Judge under his thumb, and Robertson could control the council, and that fool Orr, that was another of his votes, Three of the five, now one against two!

 

The bright spot, going after Lost Lake. That always brought a smile to his face, and with Shade Thornton's whereabouts unknown, well, that left Cantrell, who also had not been seen for a while. Without the ownership present, and maybe not Quentin Cantrell, would the hands stand and fight? An interesting question. If they were worth their salt they would!

 

For the moment, all he wanted was to jab them by taking their cattle. An all out war? It was probably on the horizon, the not too distant horizon, that skirmish he intended to win, and then, burn that big house to the ground! Elias laughed out loud.

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Carson had reached the summit and could see far down the valley, and sure enough, lots of little black dots were covering the area along the stream from   near the main house, which even looked huge from his vantage point. It struck him at that moment that it was lost Lake this, and Lost Lake that referring to the ranch, an all the while there was an actual Lost lake body of water. He allowed himself a laugh at his realization.

 

But The Evergreen had a lake as well, not that he knew it's name, just that there was one. The Steelgrave house, big, but not as big as Lost Lakes, was a ways from their lake. And cowhands had little time for such things as a lake.

 

He turned his attention to Kimi Lake, and there were more little black dots than flies on a bulls ass. which would leave the Broken Finger Lake area. But none of the areas where the herds were would be easy to rustle from unless there was a herd at Harpers Meadow. Now that would be easy, either swing wide of the farmers place or push right through it. That would be good for one attempt, after that, there were safer places to hold the herds.

 

Unless of course, they pushed the cattle east. But that would be like a drive bringing them north and then west through the passes to the Evergreen, and he was not sure the boss would be willing to spare the hands to do that. But, that would be up the Elias Steelgrave. He needed to move on and check out Harpers Meadow.

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Harper's Meadow, as seen from the high country was a a piece of land butting up to that farmers place and the Evergreen. He looked down, using his glasses to check the area, one of low hills and grassland, there was water but not like the other spots where Lost Lake cattle were grazing.

 

From what Carson could see, there were a number of steers there, but not in the numbers of the other areas. This would be easier than any of the other spots to take the cattle and get them on Evergreen land. But if it was a large number the boss wanted to take, that would not be it,

 

A hoof clicked on a stone as Carson was replacing his glasses in his saddle bags. A voice called out, "What's yer business on Lost lake land, Mister?"

 

Carson reined around to look at who had spoken, and how many of them there might be. "Driftin' up from the east. That the town of Kalispell down there?" As likely a story as not.

 

"Usin' glasses to see see what? Cattle 'er buildin's?" The man asked. His hand resting close to his holstered gun.

 

"Whoa now pardner, like I said, I'm just drifin' up from the east, headed for Kalispell. I ain't huntin' no trouble." Carson pleaded. But he saw the mans eyes lower to where his horses brand was on it's rump, and in that instant, his hand went to his gun.

 

Now most cowhands are not gunmen, they can and will fight for the brand they ride for, that was a given. But to say they were gun hands?  No. However, men like Carson, and most all of the men that rode for the Evergreen, they were hired guns that didn't mind working cows.

 

There were two explosions. A slug tore through Carson's side, but his shot caught the Lost Lake rider in the chest, knocking him from the saddle. The sounds from the gunshots echoed off of the mountains several times before they faded away. That would alert anyone the man had been riding with, so Carson fogged it off that mountain as fast as he could, given the lay of the land. He had to reach the Evergreen and let them know that trouble just might be coming, should the others from the Lost Lake figure out what had happened.

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It was slow going. Carson had to try his best to bandage the wound, it was not serious, in that vital organs were hit, but he was losing blood. He had no doubt he wold make it back to the ranch, he was on his way back when he was accosted by the Lost Lake rider. He didn't want to kill him, but he had no choice, not the way he saw it.

 

All in al the trip had not been worth getting shot, but it was the job.  He had been shot before. The cattle would be difficult to take he was sure of that. Those he had seen at Harper Meadow would be easy enough, that was for sure, though the bigger herds not so much. He had no idea how many men were with any of the herds which were just black dots. So his report to the boss would be vague in that respect, which he expected the boss would understand.

 

He rode into the ranch, across the range to the bunk house where he struggled to step down.

One of the men shouted  "What the hell!" Grabbing Carson so he didn't fall. "Granger! Carson's been shot!"

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Elias was informed of the wound and hurried to the bunk house where Carson was laid out on a bunk. Doc Gilcrest, a former hospital-man in the Union Army was tending to the wounded man. Elias took Granger aside, "What happened?"

 

"Says he was on his way back when one of the Lost Lake riders stopped him. Said the man saw the brand and went for his gun. Carson killed him, but he had no choice. Took lead himself but Gilcrest said he'll make it, bullet went clean through, just lost a sight of blood."

 

"Damn it. I had hoped this wouldn't have happened. Things might just heat up if they trail him here." Elias said.

 

"I sent men out lookin' for a blood trail, and they'll take care of it. Goin' to follow the way he came in, all the way past the sodbusters place onto Lost Lake land, unless they see their riders, then they'll make like they're ridin' the fence line." Granger reported.

 

"I damn sure don't want trouble, not just yet. Soon, that's for sure, but not just yet." Elias stressed. "You make sure Carson gets whatever he needs, including plenty of rest and food. We'll need him when the time comes."

 

"Yessir boss, I'll see too it!" Granger replied firmly.

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TBC

Edited by Flip (see edit history)
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Gilcrest just finished sewing up the entrance and exit wounds, and wrapping the wounds with sheeting, then turned to his boss, "Carsons tough as nails, Boss. He'll need rest fer a couple days 'er more. Soups an' sech fer a while. He'll mend, might take a bit, but he'll be good as new afore long."

 

"Thanks Doc, We need him, but we'll give him all the time he needs to get right." Elias stated. "Like I said, whatever he needs, and, when he comes around, see if he's up to talking about what he learned."

 

"Yes sir." Granger said. "You never mind anything else, you keep an eye on Carson here.

 

"Shore thing, Granger. I'll see to it." Gilcrest promised. He had seen his share of wounded men and tended to any number of them during and after the war. Carson was, as he described, one tough customer!

 

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Elias took Granger aside, "When Carson is up to questioning, find out what he knows. I want to have an idea about where the herds are and if we can get to them. That place is just one big problem, and I do know they tend to have cattle all over their range. Damned house is deep in the mountains and foothills, so it won't be easy no matter how you cut it."

 

"Sure, maybe a day, maybe less. He lost a good deal of blood getting back here, so he's got him a tale to tell about them cows of theirs. But he's weak, plenty weak. I'll see to it he gets lots of beef broth till he's up to chewin', he'll be talkative by then."

 

"Good, good. Need him back on his feet, good man Carson is. Like to have me a dozen just like him." Elias said.

 

"Hell boss, you already do. Maybe not as good, but damned close. The way they handled them would be rustlers oughtta be proof enough of that." Granger pointed out.

 

Elias smiled, "Yes, I suppose you're right about that. I don't get out with them like I used to, maybe I ought to."

 

"Couldn't hurt, and the boys'd enjoy seein' you out there with 'em." Granger agreed.

 

Without another word Elias Steelgrave walked back to the main house, it had not been loose talk about getting back out with the men and lending a hand they way he used to. He knew that it would do him good to get back to working his own spread, after all he and his sons had built the place.

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Carson would be down a while, but, he had Gilcrest to look after him as he regained his strength. That may be a slow process, but after a good long sleep, he' would be talkative, and hungry so that would allow the cowboy to gather strength. A good diet of beef broth and then steak would get him strong again, not that his was weak, except from loss of blood.

 

Gilcrest was a good man to have, not every outfit had a man that could do the medical things that he could. Not many had the medical knowledge that he did. And the fact was, not a lot of the men out west could read. Gilcrest could, and had medical books which he continued to study. the men made light of his reading the books, but not so much after he saved a mans leg from amputation.

 

No one knew that Doc Gilcrest had his eye on a spot in that shiny new hospital, if it ever got built, and, no one knew that Gilcrest had not killed anyone since the war, when he had been forced to. They liked keeping him out of the action, it would not do to have hims killed or badly wounded. No, he was far too valuable. And he would be a real asset to the hospital staff, if it ever got built.

 

Of course, they might kill him anyway, if he went there to work. Meanwhile, it was caring for Carson that mattered.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another problem reared it's head, just where was Brendan Connolly?  They had one man down and another missing.

 

Arlen Granger stood in the bunk house noting that the bunk assigned to Connolly had not been used, or at least the disarray of the bunk was the same as it had been.  So, one by one he questioned the hands at the morning meal,  what he learned was the last anyone saw of him, he'd gone to town.  It damn sure wasn't Saturday night either!

 

Gilcrest came into the room where the men were eating and said, "Carson's awake an' talkative." He was smiling, "A mite stonger'n I figgered him ta be. Talkin' about gettin' up and comin' ta breakfast, he is!"

 

"I'll be go ta hell." Granger exclaimed. "I need you to ride inta town an' drag Connolly back here. He ain't willin' he'll darw more'n his time!!"

 

"Yes'sir, I'm on my way." Gilcrest stated and headed out the door. Carson would be alright until he got back, 'Damn Connolly anyway!' He thought, this was the last thing he wanted to do.

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  • Flip changed the title to Plan Of Action

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